Slowly over the course of the year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rolls out its data related to OSHA inspections, workplace injuries, work-related fatalities, and penalties issued in enforcement cases. Recently, OSHA updated its website to feature the results from the first quarter of 2019 (January through March) for initial enforcement penalties. In this editorial, the OSHA defense lawyers with Cotney Construction Law will discuss this recently released information.
If you are interested in seeing these statistics for yourself, you can visit the government agency’s website at OSHA.gov. To ensure that your jobsite doesn’t end up on this list, consult a knowledgeable OSHA lawyer from Cotney Construction Law.
What You Can Observe in the Top Penalties Section
As we stated above, it takes a significant amount of time for OSHA employees to compile the data related to enforcement fines and post the information on their website. Generally, if you are interested in researching statistics at OSHA.gov, you will need to wait anywhere from six to nine months after the issuance date to learn more about the enforcement case.
Although patience is a virtue required for any employer that wants to assess data related to the top penalties in each state, there’s plenty of helpful information listed on OSHA’s website once it is finally posted. For high penalties in each state, you can view the following information:
- An employer can view enforcement cases in every state across the country, including American provinces like Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each state or province has a list of every initial infraction that has occured since 2015. It’s important to note that these are strictly for infractions of $40,000 or more.
- Each enforcement case on the website has the OSHA inspection number listed for that case. When you click on this link, you can see a ton of valuable information specifically pertaining to the infraction the employer incurred. For example, the document entails a “Violation Summary” notifying the reader if the enforcement case contained serious or willful violations. Other important facts are whether the inspection type was planned or not and the total accrual of penalties that resulted in the penalty.
- Other valuable information listed on the website includes the name of the employer that was issued the penalty, the city in which the infraction occurred, the date that the penalty was issued, and the fiscal total issued by OSHA to the employer for the penalty.
Consider the Penalty for Noncompliance
It’s important to look back at past enforcement cases that resulted in costly fines to get a better understanding of the types of penalties being issued in your region and the reasons why the fines were so costly. Plus, this list can serve as a reminder of the steep penalty issued to employers who fail to comply with the rules and regulations enforced by OSHA. For example, many of the companies listed on OSHA.gov have experienced fines in excess of $300,000. As you can imagine, this type of financial setback can impact a contractor’s operations significantly.
It’s important to note a few relevant facts related to this data before we dive into the numbers:
- The data listed on this website strictly features employers that received a fine of $40,000 or greater. Naturally, it would take the agency too much time to list every fine issued to date, so this list only focuses on the most costly penalties in each state.
- Not all fines issued by OSHA are construction-related. In fact, the list of employers that were issued a citation for the first quarter of 2019 in Florida includes a restaurant group, a pet food brand, and even the U.S. Postal Service.
- Lastly, these stats are based only on initial penalties and do not include any total amount of expenses an employer experienced in penalties. Further, this list doesn’t feature any possible reductions to the penalty amount once an employer hired an OSHA defense lawyer.
A Few Stats for the First Quarter of 2019 in Florida
To give the reader some context of the types of initial fines being issued in any region across the United States, let’s assess the first quarter of 2019 in Florida. Enforcement cases with initial penalties of $40,000 or more in the Sunshine State from January through March 2019 resulted in the following information:
- Collectively, there were 12 incidents or more that resulted in an initial penalty that exceeded $40,000 from January through March 2019. This was a 25 percent decrease in total incidents compared to the last quarter of 2018.
- The total gross of these initial penalties issued exceeded $910,000. Again, this was a significant drop-off in penalties compared to the more than $1.5 million in penalties that were issued in the last quarter of 2018.
- The highest initial penalty was issued to a construction company that received a fine of $144,532 in February. Again, this was much less than the highest penalty of the last quarter of 2018 that was in excess of $370,000.
- 75 percent of the initial penalties issued were to companies that worked in the fields of construction, roofing, concrete, and HVAC. As these types of employers are frequently targeted for OSHA inspections, it’s critical that employers in these industries partner with an OSHA attorney.
Never Overlook the Likelihood of Receiving a Significant Fine
Considering that construction firms and other employers experienced less significant penalties, the data compiled by OSHA for first quarter of 2019 in Florida is a pleasant surprise, but it’s critical that you don’t jump to conclusions and assume that less penalties will be issued in the future because of one favorable quarter. The silver lining to this compiled data for any state is that one significant infraction can greatly impact the statistics for an entire quarter. Fortunately, in the first quarter of 2019, no employer in Florida experienced a fine over $145,000; however, it’s highly likely that over the course of the year several more employers will receive significant enforcement penalties, including fines over $100,000.
Related: Why Safety Committees Fail
An OSHA Defense Lawyer Can Assist You
To ensure the assets of your construction business remain protected, it’s critical that construction firms partner with our knowledgeable OSHA lawyers. The attorneys at Cotney Construction Law can assist you with a variety of legal tasks related to safety, including:
- Knowledgeable Legal Counsel: our lawyers can draft safety manuals for your business while also making sure you are up-to-speed on the most recent changes to OSHA workplace standards and regulations.
- Safety Audits: We can perform third-party safety audits of your jobsite before an inspector arrives. During an OSHA inspection, our attorneys can be onsite and represent your best interests during the inspection process.
- OSHA Defense: if you business does experience a substantial enforcement penalty, our lawyers can offer you OSHA defense. We defend contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, manufacturers, and other construction professionals against OSHA citations. If you are experiencing an OSHA-related legal issue, our attorneys can help.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.